There is a great difference between sympathy (from the Greek sym-, with – and pathein-, to suffer, i.e., to suffer with) and compassion. With compassion, one’s heart goes out to others to uplift and console them, strengthen them and express the deepest caring for their plight, but never taking their suffering onto oneself. Surely one of the greatest needs in this world which, seen as a material manifestation, expresses such suffering and sadness, is for the deepest, heartfelt caring for others This was a key element of the teachings of both Buddha and Jesus, to mention just two of the greatest avatars who came to help the human race progress to a higher consciousness.

Compassion fatigue has been mostly associated with overburdened social workers and caregivers, and the unending solicitations for contributions by various worthy causes.  But it now increasingly includes the many crises we face – Ukraine, the intolerable Gaza humanitarian situation, migrants and asylum seekers, victims of wildfires, floods and earthquakes … A recent article in The Christian Science Monitor addressed the problem: “In a society where the term “compassion fatigue” has been growing more common, we can fight against apathy and hopelessness by arming ourselves with deeds of goodness and thoughtfulness. We can take a strong mental stand against selfishness and indifference…We can each make a commitment to take a more active stand for good in our life and resist being pushed and buffeted by reports of evil. We can plant our feet more firmly and contribute to a campaign of compassion, caring, and unselfish giving. This is a battle we can fight and win through the grace of God, and we will surely see the change it brings to a waiting world.”*

Each one of us can grow in this deep caring if we really put our heart to it. Love in its special dimension of compassion constitutes one of the foundations of any civilized society. So, dear readers of this blog, now more than ever, send your love, compassion and blessings to all corners of this planet. As I wrote in The Gentle Art of Blessing, “To bless all without discrimination of any sort is the ultimate form of giving, because those you bless will never know from whence came the sudden ray of sun that burst through the clouds of their skies, and you will rarely be a witness to the sunlight in their lives.”

A Blessing for Compassion

May compassion ever deepen my caring for the suffering of the world and still more my desire to heal it. May my compassion cause me to immediately embrace any suffering I become aware of, not by taking it in and suffering with the other one, but by uplifting it in thought with the inspiration of Grace and depositing it at the feet of the infinite Love which heals all.

May I have the deep, burning desire to be that gentle flame of living compassion that embraces all, everywhere, at all times.

May my compassion tenderly embrace and uplift the most heinous criminal as well as the most dedicated servant of humanity, the most criminal and perverted dictator or the greatest saint, the cruelest sadist or my friendly neighbor, the illiterate street sweeper and the most learned erudite, the most distorted cripple and the beauty queen – all, all, all – without distinction of any sort. May I embrace my neighbors near and far of whatever kind or hue, religion or absence thereof, social status, political conviction, level of education, opinion or belief.

May my compassion embrace Your wondrous creation, from the miniscule insect to the huge blue whale, from the modest shrub to the towering sequoias or the 3,000-year-old cedars of the Sahara, from the tiny stream to the infinite ocean, for You have created them for our enjoyment and pleasure.

May my daily newspaper or TV news bulletin become my daily prayer book as I bless and reverse all the dramatic or sad events reported, knowing and feeling that behind the hypnotic material scene there is another Reality of eternal light and universal, unconditional Love awaiting all.

Rather than bemoan injustice in the world or catastrophes here or there, may compassion enable me to open my purse, my hands or my heart to relieve the pain others are going through.

And finally, may my compassion be so acute and sensitive that it ultimately learns to pierce the veil of ignorance that makes me see a material world of suffering where true vision discerns only the glorious omnipresence of infinite spiritual Love and its perfect manifestation everywhere.

Pierre Pradervand, March 2024